Sri Lanka bans burqa, niqab in wake of terror attacks

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According to the statement for Sri Lanka's president, Maithripala Sirisena, the decision was made "to strengthen national security as well as to not inconvenience any demographic group so as to create a peaceful and harmonious society in Sri Lanka". A burqa is an outer garment that covers the entire body and the face, a niqab is a veil that also covers the face, while a hijab covers only the hair.

The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka urged the government on Monday to crack down on Islamic extremists with more vigor "as if on war footing" in the aftermath of the Easter bombings.

Buddhism accounts as a majority religion in the island country.

"We are hurt. We are angry, also, but still, as the senior pastor of Zion Church Batticaloa, the whole congregation and every family affected, we say to the suicide bomber, and also to the group that sent the suicide bomber, that we love you and we forgive you", Mahesen told "The Life", a Christian charity in the United Kingdom.

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But Sirisena rejected claims that he should resign in the face of the catastrophic intelligence failures in the runup to the attacks, which killed more than 250 people and injured at least 500.

Sri Lanka's president was personally warned about imminent terror attacks on three separate occasions, reports the Colombo Telegraph.

"We see this as a reflection of the conflict between the president and the prime minister".

But on Sunday, the two leaders attended a mass together in a rare display of unity, while Catholic churches were closed for safety.

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"At one level, if we are to be charitable it was a degree of incompetence and complacency", Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Center for Policy Alternatives in Colombo, tells NPR's Michael Sullivan of the government's response to the warnings. However, it criminalizes a practice more associated with an ultraconservative form of Islam previously unknown on the island, one that more closely adheres to the strict beliefs more common in Saudi Arabia.

Last week a Sri Lankan MP had proposed a ban on women wearing the burka, saying it should be outlawed on security grounds. He pledged to bring peace and "dismantle the networks" of radical Muslim militants in the country.

According to Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry, the number of foreign nationals who have been identified as killed remained at 40, including 11 from India.

Meanwhile, some top officials have been replaced since the bombings.

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The ban took effect Monday and applies to anything covering the face, which could include burqas, niqabs and helmets or masks.